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Democratic lawmakers dial up pressure on Biden over student debt relief

Yahoo Finance’s Aarthi Swaminathan reports details on the latest in Biden's authority over student loan debt cancellation.

Video Transcript

JARED BLIKRE: Welcome back. 18 members of Congress led by Representative Ilhan Omar signed a letter Friday addressed to President Biden and the Secretary of Education. She's urging them to release a memo on the administration's authority over student loan debt cancelation. And Yahoo Finance's own Aarthi Swaminathan has all the details. What are they?

AARTHI SWAMINATHAN: Jared, so this goes to the debate over the federal government and whether it has the authority to cancel trillions of dollars in student loan debt for 40+ million borrowers. So we heard from the White House back on April 1st that there is a memo that the Department of Justice and the Education Department are preparing for the president, basically to see if he has the authority to broadly cancel student debt. And this memo was supposed to come in, quote, "weeks." It's been months. And we're not even seeing the existence of a memo. We're getting closer and closer to when the payment pause is ending, which is in January.

So progressive House lawmakers are basically upping the ante and putting a lot of pressure on President Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to release this memo by October 22nd. So that's in about 11 days. And this group, again, like you mentioned, is led by Representative Omar, as well as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Pramila Jayapal, and Ayanna Pressley, whom we've spoken with on this show, I believe. They are applying pressure from a different angle. We know that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, have been sort of pressing this button repeatedly in many press conferences and many conversations. But we haven't seen anything yet.

And I just want to flag this very interesting quote from the letter, which was kind of memorable to me. But in this letter, Omar and all her colleagues write that even during periods of economic normalcy, student debt is a policy failure. Turning student debt payments back on during the pandemic is an act of policy failure. Canceling student debt is both the morally right and economically sound thing to do. I know that last line is kind of an interesting one. I don't know how many people would agree or disagree with her. But this is sort of the position that they've laid out. And we have about 11 days for this to happen.

JARED BLIKRE: Well, 11 days, October 22nd right around the corner. I got to ask you, how important is this deadline because, as we've seen with other issues confronting Congress and the administration, such as the debt ceiling, arguably very important, deadlines sometimes don't matter.

AARTHI SWAMINATHAN: Yeah, precisely, Jared. So I guess, my question is, so what if October 22nd comes and goes? What is this deadline they sort of just set two weeks from the date that they send the letter? So it's going to be very interesting to see how and if Cardona actually responds to this. And basically, the memo basically exists because they've had months to prepare this. And, what, in two weeks, do you think that they would produce it? So I'm kind of skeptical, but it will be interesting to see if education actually provides a response.

JARED BLIKRE: Yeah, I'll be sitting on pins and needles myself. Aarthi Swaminathan, thank you for that report.